Women winning the war on women

by Ryan Streeter on September 13, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

The reason the whole “war on women” schtick strikes many of us as odd, even outdated, is because of the reality David Brooks wrote about in his latest column.

He draws on Hanna Rosin’s book, “The End of Men,” to shed light on what I consider to be one of our most consequential, under-reported demographic shifts in America today: the crumbling culture of aspiration and ambition among men. Women, over the past couple of decades, have learned how to adapt to changing economic realities better than men – perhaps they’ve even driven some of them. Men have gone in the other direction.

Brooks writes:

Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid.

That’s a great analogy. This new immigrant mindset among women is making a big difference:

A study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small businesses owned by women outperformed male-owned small businesses during the last recession. In finance, women who switch firms are more likely to see their performance improve, whereas men are more likely to see theirs decline. There’s even evidence that women are better able to adjust to divorce. Today, more women than men see their incomes rise by 25 percent after a marital breakup.

Forty years ago, men and women adhered to certain ideologies, what it meant to be a man or a woman. Young women today, Rosin argues, are more like clean slates, having abandoned both feminist and prefeminist preconceptions. Men still adhere to the masculinity rules, which limits their vision and their movement.

If one front of the “war on women” has to do with economic opportunity, women clearly seem to be winning that one.